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In a.d. 2742, during a fight to the death in space, the decimated survivors of the Galactic Patrol obtain vital details that could help defeat the evil Boskone Empire. The warship Brit-tania crashes on the peaceful farm world of M'queie, where the dying pilot passes his lens (a techno-magical power amplifier) to local boy Kim Kinnison. Kim's father, a former patrolman, sacrifices his life to allow Kim to get off-planet, throwing the young farmer into a life of adventure, as he joins forces with the patrol to defeat evil throughout the galaxy.
E. E. "Doc" Smith's Galactic Patrol (1937), along with its prequels and sequels, was one of the landmark series in the history of U.S. pulp sci-fi. Shortly after Edmond Hamilton's Captain Future (1940) was turned into an anime in 1978, Smith's classic series was also adapted into the 25-episode Galactic Patrol: Lensman TV series, directed by Battle Angel's Hiroshi Fukutomi and introducing several new elements in the wake of Star Wars. The anime turns Kim Kinnison, originally the superhuman product of a eugenics project dating back to Atlantis, into nothing but a humble farm boy who wants to be a pilot. Nurse Clarissa "Chris" MacDougall, the fiery red-haired product of another breeding program, who eventually becomes the fearsome Red Lensman and gives birth to the immortal Children of the Lens, becomes yet another simpering damsel in the anime.
Carl Macek, of Robotech fame, picked up the series and dubbed a couple of episodes in a failed attempt to interest U.S. networks. The episodes were eventually cut into the English-language video Power of the Lens, while Macek bought the feature-length Japanese theatrical edition instead to release in the U.S. as Lensman. As suggested by the 25-minute acts, the film version takes several episodes of the TV series and stitches them together. This makes the "movie" seem strangely paced, with fast action interspersed with overlong gee-whiz beauty-passes of the spaceships to allow us to gawp at the incredibly expensive computer graphics, made with the same mega-powerful Cray computers used to animate Jupiter in 2010: Odyssey Two. Still vaguely recognizable from the book are the Overlords of Delgon, evil creatures whom Kim defeats in the company of the "Dragon Lensman" Worsel, and van Buskirk, a Dutch giant (inexplicably half-bison in the anime). Later scenes set on the "drug planet" Radelix start to go off the rails. Whereas Kim goes deep undercover posing as the drug addict "Wild Bill" in the book Gray Lensman, Wild Bill is a character in his own right in the anime, DJ-ing in a dated 1980s disco. By the end, we're in a ho-hum world of final showdown and lighthearted coda, with the baddie predictably still alive; a great disappointment if you've read the books, which feature crashing worlds, maimings, and dismemberments, a revolution on a planet of lesbians, mind-blowing psychic powers, double-, triple-, and quadruple-crossing conspiracies, and gunplay that makes The Matrix look like a puppet show.
Instead of reproducing such joys, the anime takes only the characters and most basic of plot outlines, adding the off-the-peg elements that are supposed to guarantee success in the George Lucas mode. The "comic relief" robot Sol, whose appearances are never comic and seldom a relief, is another pointless homage. Ironically, the end result makes Lensman look like a cheap knockoff of Star Wars, whereas it was original literally decades ahead of it.